List of MBA Specializations: Which one to select?

List of MBA Specializations

The initial phase of an MBA program (usually the first year in a two year MBA program) is dedicated towards completion of the core courses. These are designed to build a strong foundation of the basic concepts across the various management subjects. During the latter part of the program, you can choose to specialise in a particular area.

There may be numerous factors that influence your decision regarding the area you wish to specialise in. Depending upon your priority, you may choose a field as per the market demand (job availability), your interest area, preferred job profiles and the compensation package.
 

List of MBA Specialisations

 
The list of the most popular MBA specializations in no particular order is as follows:

  • Marketing
  • Human Resources
  • Finance
  • Information Systems
  • Consulting
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Operations Management

Let’s look at each one of them.
 

1. Marketing

The increasing competition has necessitated the need for competitive positioning and excellent marketing skills including the ability to differentiate your product and create a niche for your company in order to sustain long-term profitability for your products or services.

The marketing department plays a crucial role in any organisation as they are responsible for bringing in new businesses, growing the revenue, increasing market share and contributing to the company’s growth and profitability.

Students opting for this specialisation would be able to get insights into various key areas required for every organisation or corporation, some of which include market research and analysis, competitive analysis, consumer behaviour, customer analysis, business ethics, product management, brand management, advertising, digital marketing and e-commerce.

Whether your interest area lies in market research or advertising or sales/distribution of FMCG (Fast moving consumer goods), consumer durables or you’d like to work in IT sales, media, marketing of various services, internet marketing, an MBA in marketing will give you the chance to explore jobs in a wide variety of sectors.

Learn more about Careers in Marketing.
 

2. Human Resources

A specialisation in HR helps you understand how to acquire, manage and retain workforce within an organisation in a systematic and organised manner.

This area aims to provide you with the knowledge and ability to manage employees and execute the related work processes within a company covering various aspects including recruitment, selection, training and development, designing jobs, assessments and motivation (promotions/rewarding performance of employees), health and safety, compensation and managing exits from a company.

It also involves managing relationships or any issues arising between the management and the employees. They have to ensure that a cordial relationship exists between them for the smooth functioning and the success of the organisation. They may also be required to take charge of various activities like get-togethers or off-site visits which may be an integral part of the office culture.

Learn more about Careers in Human Resources.
 

3. Finance

This area seems to be a popular choice and as per Top MBA, it accounts for around 22% of the post-MBA career choice. The irresistible pay packets offered in some of the finance-related jobs may be the responsible for the high influx of MBA grads into the finance stream.

The specialisation helps you get thorough insights into how the financial world functions, the various financial theories and how these can be applied to solve the various business problems.

Your career choice could be in any of these areas: investment banking, asset management firms, hedge funds or private equity, portfolio management, credit risk management, hedge fund management or derivatives. Even the non-financial firms or companies would have their in-house finance department which would provide various job opportunities in finance.

Read more about Careers in Finance (including Investment banking jobs and venture capital careers).
 

4. Information Systems

The use of technology has extended to almost every sector and industry which is why there’s a growing demand for professionals with a combination of business and advanced technical expertise.

The specialisation would help you to efficiently manage e-commerce so that you have a thorough understanding of the changes in the competitive business environment; you’d have gained the technical knowledge of emerging technologies in the IT field.

The various areas that may be covered in this specialisation include systems analysis, network security, data analytics, supply chain management, e-business along with managerial decision-making as well as project management.

Read more about Careers in Information Systems and Technology.
 

5. Consulting

Consulting is another favourite choice, perhaps a dream destination for some. The high profile jobs offering fantastic salaries with perks and the opportunity to travel places is primarily responsible for the allure surrounding this profession.

Consultants are hired when an outsiders’ opinion and expertise is needed to provide solutions to specific problems or challenges faced by the organisation or take charge of projects that may be beyond the capacity of the internal staff.

There are various sectors related to the consulting profession including the more popular ones like strategy consulting, IT/technology consulting, operations consulting, boutique consulting to the lesser known areas like HR, investments, public relations/media, education or advertising.

Those opting for this profession may be able to boast about the wide variety of projects they handle for various clients in a variety of industries or geographical locations. However you need to examine the working hours as some of these areas may cause your work-life balance to go for a toss.

Read these articles on Management Consulting careers.
 

6. Entrepreneurship

This concentration involves developing the knowledge and strategic skills and business concepts for launching your own start-up and networking with others with an entrepreneurial vision. Entrepreneurs face the challenging task of building a business model with the available limited resources.

The curriculum combines theory with real-world projects so that you are aware of the possible roadblocks and know ways to successfully handle different situations and take the right decisions.

You would be able to use your creativity and analytically assess the market scenario to create a business plan. You would be able to interact with successful entrepreneurs and learn from their successes and failures.

Read these Entrepreneurship articles.
 

7. Operations management

The knowledge of operations management would empower you with the expertise required to efficiently manage the entire system related to manufacturing or services in a manner that the organisation has a competitive edge over others.

The newer perspectives and the analytical skills brought in by the MBA grads can help address the various issues faced towards managing the entire process which includes product design, manufacture, supply chain management, quality control, co-ordination between various teams including various decisions like outsourcing.

You’ve probably played our Supply Chain Management game.
 
Though the above specialisations are usually the more popular choices, there are a range of options available depending on what your bschool offers.
 

List of other MBA specialisation based on Industry

While the earlier list focussed on functional specialisation, you could also have an industry focus. Here’s a representative list of industry specialisation.

  • Health / Pharmaceuticals / Biotech
  • Media/entertainment/sports
  • Non-Profit

Here’s a more comprehensive list of industries. For now, let’s get an overview of the 3 mentioned above.
 

A. Health / Pharmaceuticals / Biotech

This is for those professionals intending to pursue their careers in pharmaceuticals, healthcare, diagnostics or the biotech industry. It covers the various aspects including legal, ethical and regulatory aspects of the pharmaceutical sector as well as product management and marketing research for introducing new products in the market.
 

B. Media/entertainment/sports

This specialisation prepares students for a management career in media or other creative streams. It equips you with the knowledge of various key factors in the area of media management. The topics taught may include the following: music, publishing, theatre, sports, radio among others.
 

C. Non-profit

The focus is on preparing students to contribute to the social sector. They learn the required skills for the success of their non-profit organisation including various community change solution, managing fundraising, marketing and fund allocation and leadership skills.
Other specialisations include international business, strategy, supply chain management or construction management.
 
While choosing an MBA specialisation area, it always works in your favour if your interest is aligned with the career choice. If you choose a field only for the glamour or the salary associated with it, it may be possible that it wouldn’t sustain your long-term interest and you may experience burnout after a few years of work.

So, take your time to think; use your internship opportunities as a testing ground to check your comfort level before you take the plunge.
 
Image source: geopolitics.co


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Swati //
Swati
After working for over a decade in technical and managerial roles in the corporate world, Swati now works as a freelancer and writes on a variety of topics including education, career guidance and self-improvement.

10 Comments

  1. Sudha Kanchi says:

    Hi Sir

    I am Sudha working in advertising agencies for past 5 years. Growth is stagnant. Want to upgrade myself and work in Marketing (FMCG is my first preference).

    I want to pursue Executive MBA in Marketing without leaving my job. Please advice some good colleges in Mumbai or distant course from IIM.

    Looking forward to hear from you.

  2. Subramanyam says:

    Hi, i have done MBA in marketing specialization and currently doing the sales job from past 5 years. I want to study further courses which can be lead to reach my goals.

    Please suggest the best courses and universities.

  3. Chandra Mouli K says:

    Hi Sameer

    I graduated in Apr 2015(B.Tech – Electronics and Communications). I would have an experience of 15 months(in IT sector but working in a Telecom domain) by the start of the 2016 fall term. I like to pursue my masters in operations and also would like to continue my career in the Telecom Industry but with the functions of an Operations Manager . Is it better to do a masters (M.S.) in operations or wait for another year and apply for an M.B.A with a specialization in Operations? Thanks in advance.

  4. Ajinkya says:

    Respected sir,
    I am doing my b.tech 3rd year. And I really want to change my path as I am not at all finding any kind of scope as such in coming years. Well speaking practically, earning the most from your education is what I think, more over a white collar job is what I have been dreaming of. Could you please suggest me as to which specialization in MBA I should opt for?

  5. Zain says:

    Sameer, If a person has give years experience as a lecturer in a Technological University and if he wants to join a B school and later switch careers, Is that advisable? If at all the Top B schools give him an admit… will he face crisis or hard times during the placement drive or offcampus job hunt inorder to switch careers… Will the recruiters wont consider because of the area of previous experience as lecturer? If a BPO, Army , Navy, IT, Sales, Corporate guy who may not even know how to handle a group of pupils possibly get into the business world as a manager… why can’t a well equipped and skilled lecturer who has experience in handling and training lots of students switch career with an MBA ? Why is that so that he is been always asked to go for PhD or research and continue in academics? Kindly advice on this please

  6. Sameer Kamat says:

    @Chandra: Since you are already in a technical role and doing well, why take a break from it – only to pursue a Masters degree and get back into a technical role. Instead, it may be better to spend some time learning more on the job and then going for an MBA when you are ready to take the career to the next (managerial, not technical) level.

    @Ajinkya: I’m not sure I understand your query completely. But I think it’ll be wrong for someone else to suggest what you should be doing. Since the line you’ve chosen for yourself hasn’t worked well, why not hold back on the next degree till you figure out on your own what you like and what you don’t.

    @Zain: Yes, you will face challenges when you are hunting for a job after graduating from any bschool.

    The point you raise in the second part is more interesting. I agree with you that it’s unfair to push all teachers into the PhD space and keep them in academia, while candidates from other functions don’t have such a tough time. .

    Here are some perspectives from the recruiters’ side, that may give you a better appreciation of why that’s happening.

    For most of them, the skills that you already have are as important as your new degree. Whether it’s a teacher or a merchant navy sailor or Army guy, the way they’ll evaluate candidates will be more or less the same. What value can you add to their company.

    The Merchant Navy guy is part of the Supply Chain industry. He may have a better understanding of SCM principles that employers can use.

    Coming to the Army, many soldiers spend more time in rescue activities that require logistics and planning than on actual war. Employers may value their resource planning skills,

    You’ll have to think about a similar set of skills that make you attractive for future employers. Package that convincingly in your MBA application essays and see where it goes.

  7. Zain says:

    Probably a academician or lecturer would have conducted or coordinated numerous events, seminars, Symposiums and Technical Fests/ cultural fests. Managed a whole batch of students , regular interactions with parents, Publishing results and deadlines and lead them to their goals and destination. The name is The lecturer but probably he is the only person who has been doing all the managerial jobs during his work experience tenure which a software techie did not do or even may not be capable of doing any such things Now Does this answer the recruiters or the B school admissions Sameer? Kindly Guide me

  8. Sameer Kamat says:

    @Zain: Good to see you pitching in with ideas. All the skills you’ve listed are good.

    As the next step think about which post-MBA employer would these be the most relevant for. Depending on the industry / role you are targetting, some skills may be directly useful, others may not.

    That should help you narrow down your post-MBA goals and fit them better with what you’ve done and what you can offer.

  9. KARAN says:

    sir i am pursing B.E in electronic and communication and i am thinking of doing business but having still confusion in it to what to do. so should i do MBA or should i start my business ..
    sir help me out.

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